Lift Every Voice and Sing by The Culture Queen on Throwback Thursday

This song comes from member Jessica “The Culture Queen” Smith. It is on her new album, I Like the Me I See, released in time for Black History Month.

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“Lift Every Voice and Sing” started off as a poem penned by James Weldon Johnson in 1899 in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Booker T. Washington was the guest speaker for the celebration during which a group of Johnson’s students first performed the poem. It  was later set to music in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson’s brother John Rosamond Johnson. The Episcopal church has authorized it as an official hymnal.

The NAACP adopted the song as our Black national anthem and we often sing it at the beginning of many events relevant to black history. The lyrics are:

“Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.”
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is my absolute favorite song because it is so inspirational. It tells the triumphant story of African-Americans in this country as well as the diaspora. In fact, it was this very song that inspired the logo design for my company Culture Kingdom Kids. My favorite lyrics are

“ Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,Let us march on till victory is won.”

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As you can see, there’s an image of a royal child “facing the rising sun” inside the logo.

IMG_6539Sadly, I’m surprised to find that many children and even adults still don’t know the words. I included this song on my album “I Like The Me I See!” released in 2016 because I wanted to encourage a new generation of listeners to enjoy the song and know it by heart. I spiced up the music traditionally performed with a gospel sound and gave it a with an uplifting calypso feel. The new version of the song also features one of my Culture Kingdom Kids Princess Aaraya Newlon (age 12) on lead vocals. Princess Aaraya attends a school where they sing the song every morning so she already had the song in her heart! I was so impressed by the improvised sections she added to the song.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a timeless song that is still very relevant today. When looking for songs to teach during Black History Month, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is always an excellent place to start. As the song says: “Let us march on till victory is won!”

4 comments

  1. I love this new version! I have taught the original nearly every year, but I will try this one this year.

  2. Thank you for explaining the whole history! Beautiful!

  3. Oh yes, I grew up singing this too, but I didn’t know its impact. Thank you for giving us the background and sharing this new singer’s version. Lift EVERY voice!

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